Robert F. Greene Atlanta Chapter - The 555th Parachute Infantry Association “Triple Nickles”
On page 24 of the September 10, 1944, New York Times, an Associated Press article entitled, “Fire Fighters Use Parachutes” reported (see photo below) that “Crews have been dropped by parachute to fight forest fires reported in many areas of the Northwest.”
On the surface, the article would appear as just another chronicle of happenings during World War II. Yet, if we were to examine the circumstances more closely, we would learn that these “Fire Fighters” were black enlisted, commissioned and non-commissioned officers belonging to the first battalion of all black paratroopers, trained to jump and fight in the European war theater. These brave trailblazers underwent the rigors and tests required of all paratroopers as these chosen few would pave the way for others to prove they had the skill, the courage, as well as the tactical knowledge, and prowess to jump and to fight. These brave black men, although trained to defend their country in the European theater, tested their mettle in the forests along the Pacific coast.
Their mission was a closely held secret that remains shrouded in obscurity, although no longer a secret to today. During the war, the Japanese military sent incendiary balloon bombs across the ocean, landing on American territory, starting forest fires across the West. These first black paratroopers, calling themselves the “Triple Nickles” were deployed to jump into the flames from above and put them out. Their sacrifices and conduct during the war and its aftermath are legendary, not only because they performed so valiantly, but also because they did it amidst racial strife and prejudice, surrounded by a Jim Crow society bearing down on their every move within their own borders. By the end of 1944 and into January of 1945, the 555th Parachute Infantry Association (“555th”) remained faithful to their calling, eventually being disbanded and absorbed into numerous battalions across the military. Robert F. Greene was one of these pioneering paratroopers who was recruited from the state of Georgia, having served in Fort Benning with the first group.
Members of Robert F. Greene Atlanta Chapter
Armed with this knowledge and legacy, the Robert F. Greene Atlanta Chapter of the Triple Nickles is presided over by Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart awardee, Johnny M. Miller, who served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam. Johnny’s story parallels the many sacrifices and moments of valor exemplified by the original 555th. His service to his country during the war came at a price. He was wounded twice in Dak To, Vietnam on Hill 875, one of the bloodiest battles fought during the Vietnam War, during which campaign 245 American and an untold number of Vietnamese lives were lost. Johnny was brought back home only to be confronted by a country which resented his participation in an unpopular “conflict.” Yet, Johnny did not let this deter him. He continued the hard work of remaking himself, eventually landing work with the U. S. Printing Office, becoming a leader for veteran’s services in his church and serving as a community advocate and voice for change on behalf of veterans nationally.
Johnny’s story is only one of the many heroes we honor and celebrate within our ranks and membership of the Robert F. Greene Atlanta Chapter of the 555th. We invite you to visit our website and learn more about our work and mission in the metro Atlanta community to help us, “Keep the Legacy Alive!” Please visit us at: https://atlanta555thpia.wixsite.com/555th/join_us
Trooper Willie Bolden
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